Doyle making pitch for roster spot in AFL

Doyle making pitch for roster spot in AFL

Doyle making pitch for roster spot in AFL
CHICAGO -- The characteristics attached to the following White Sox pitcher seemingly make him easily identifiable to even the most casual fan.

He's got a fast-working approach, with the goal of retiring the side on three groundouts via seven pitches superseding striking out the side on 15 or 20 offerings. His plan is based on successfully working deep into games and amassing a high inning total.

And amidst his array of four pitches sits a fastball usually living in the high 80s velocity-wise. He also never has won a Major League game and throws right-handed.

No Major League wins? Right-handed? Velocity in the high 80s, maybe even low 90s? Well, this trio of traits takes free-agent-to-be Mark Buehrle out of the picture as the possible owner of these mound qualities.

Instead, this description belongs to 25-year-old Minor Leaguer Terry Doyle, who currently is dominating during his first Arizona Fall League stint with the Mesa Solar Sox. Doyle posted a 3-0 record with a 1.08 ERA over four starts, allowing a mere four hits and three walks over 16 2/3 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a .078 average. He was just named the AFL Pitcher of the Week.

As for that comparison to a pitcher with a no-hitter and perfect game among his long list of accomplishments, not to mention a 161-119 career record, Doyle isn't complaining.

"There are a lot worse people to be compared to," said Doyle during a phone interview. "He's a guy I look up to in our organization. His velocity is not 95 and neither is mine. That's what our coaches preach: Get on the mound, attack the hitters and throw strikes.

"Over the past 10 years, [Buehrle] has been one of the best pitchers in the game. It's not the flashiest way to do it, but his results are as good as anyone else."

Clearly Doyle has a long way to go to reach Buehrle's lofty status. His current hope centers on getting added to the 40-man roster and thus earning a Spring Training invite. Doyle also would like to make his big league debut at some point during the 2012 regular season.

Described as a level-to-level sort of pitcher, meaning his style is infinitely steady if not truly eye-popping, Doyle has pitched well at every stop since joining the White Sox in 2008. He put together a 3.07 ERA in 26 combined starts during this past season for Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, fanning 122 and walking 33 over 173 innings.

That level of excellence has continued in Arizona under the leadership of Mesa manager Joe McEwing, who will be moving from his job as Triple-A Charlotte's manager to White Sox third-base coach in 2012. Doyle was excited upon getting the word of his AFL inclusion but didn't know what to expect.

His ability to keep the ball down in the zone and take advantage of aggressive hitters early in the count has contributed to his big results in the desert.

"I was hoping to survive," said Doyle of his AFL expectations. "I've had four starts and have four starts left, and I can't complain. I didn't plan on thriving as I have.

"My goal was to come here hoping that I could show enough to give them faith to add me to the 40-man. I could prove I was good enough to have the chance at pitching in the big leagues."

If that big league opportunity comes sooner than later for Doyle with the White Sox, it will arrive in relief form for a pitcher who has made 63 of his 75 Minor League appearances as a starter. He has full confidence in being able to transition from the rotation to middle relief, much like Buehrle did for one season in 2000.

One other comparison between the two comes in their Draft selection, with Buehrle taken in the 38th round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft and Doyle selected in the 37th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Boston College. Doyle's 381 strikeouts over 422 1/3 innings come as a higher average per inning than Buehrle's, but the style remains extremely similar.

"One of the things that I do best as a pitcher is throw a lot of strikes," Doyle said. "If you throw enough strikes, you can pitch successfully in the bullpen and as a starter. That's my best attribute: not putting guys on base and challenge hitters and keep the game moving as quickly as possible. Make them earn what they are getting."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.